A modern family kitchen

Keen cooks Colin McGerty and Liz Eaton have transformed an impractical kitchen into a sophisticated, functional and relaxed space that mixes wood, glass and steel to create a clean look.

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Keen cooks Colin McGerty and Liz Eaton have transformed an impractical kitchen into a sophisticated, functional and relaxed space.

Colin McGertyFact file

The owners: Colin McGerty (right), an IT consultant, and his wife Liz Eaton, who is a charity fundraiser, live here with their daughter Alice, threeThe property: A three-bedroom semi-detached house built in the 1930sThe location: Cambridge, CambridgeshireWhat they spent: The couple’s kitchen project cost around £35,000

The main problem with our original kitchen was the awkwardly shaped peninsula that divided the room,’ says Colin. ‘The space wasn’t being used effectively and it felt really cramped, especially when two of us were trying to cook family meals.

‘Liz and I love cooking, so we knew we would have to turn it into a more practical space,’ he adds. ‘We wanted a spacious and contemporary design – something more suited for family living.’

With a firm plan in mind, the couple tackled the renovation work, knocking down their existing small, impractical white conservatory and replacing it with a contemporary new one from Suffolk-based Style Superior Windows and Conservatories to span the entire width of the property on the same side of the house as their kitchen.

They then bricked up the kitchen door, which gave them some extra space, and installed a large window. They removed the patio doors in the dining area to provide access to the new conservatory from the kitchen, creating a bigger, lighter space.

‘Liz and I knew that our new conservatory would make the kitchen area appear darker, so we planned to solve that problem by installing skylights in the flat roof above to let in more natural light,’ Colin explains.

However, it wasn’t simply a case of fitting new skylights when the couple discovered a number of leaks in the flat roof, which meant the entire roof had to be stripped and completely replaced.

‘We had originally budgeted around £25,000 for our kitchen project but the new roof was an unforeseen expense, which cost us an extra £1,000. It was a shame but essential,’ says Colin.

Once the roof was watertight and the skylights were in place, the couple could plan their new kitchen layout.

‘We were disappointed that some of the showrooms we visited seemed to rely on computer-generated images, offering little in the way of design flair,’ says Colin.

So they were pleased when they came across local company Cambridge Kitchens, as Colin explains: ‘We were impressed by the more personalised approach of their designer, Leon Martin, which was exactly what we were looking for.’

Cambridge Kitchens recommended a team of builders, with Colin working closely with them as project manager. During the next six weeks, they stripped out the old fittings and installed underfloor heating, new plumbing and electrics.

With the space now an open shell, Colin and Liz were able to sit down with Leon to reconfigure the layout.

‘We told Leon we wanted a practical, stylish and contemporary kitchen – but nothing too minimalist in the design,’ says Colin. ‘We chose natural materials, such as granite worktops and stone flooring, knowing that they would be both hardwearing and look great.’

As Colin and Liz were keen to link the new kitchen to the conservatory and the garden, they chose desert sand floor tiles for all three spaces.

The couple continued the natural element in their scheme, choosing curved walnut veneer units for warmth and texture with contrasting vanilla gloss units.

‘Leon suggested the vanilla units,’ says Colin. ‘We’re so pleased with the result – all-wood units would have looked too dark on their own, plus they were a more cost-effective option.’

The look has been given stylish finishing touches, such as frosted glass doors, interior cabinet lighting and stainless steel appliances, as well as statement pendant lights above the peninsular unit which is the focal point of the space.

‘Trying to fit the island unit into the layout caused a few problems,’ Colin recalls. ‘We’d wanted as large a peninsula as possible for preparing food – to us, it was an important element of the design.

‘When the unit arrived and we tried to position it in the kitchen, we were worried that the room would be a little cramped on one side with the peninsular unit in place. It took several attempts of manoeuvring it into different positions, but now it works very well in the space.’

The couple have a large American-style fridge-freezer plus a smaller fridge fitted into the island unit for storing milk, cheese and other foods.

‘We also invested in a slanting extractor fan to match our range oven,’ he adds. ‘It was our biggest extravagance, but it adds a professional look.’

So, what is the verdict on their new kitchen? ‘We love it – everything works really well. There’s nothing we would change,’ says Colin. ‘Admittedly, we went over budget, but it was worth every penny. We now have the perfect open-plan living space with our linked kitchen and conservatory. It has become the focus of our home.’


Labour and materials£12,266
Fixtures, fittings and appliances£21,936
Walls and flooring£507
TOTAL£34, 709